Military hunting down Singaporean, Malaysian terrorists in Mindanao
COTABATO CITY – After the deaths of notorious bomb experts Abdul Basit Usman and Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan, military authorities in at least two Mindanao provinces said they were hunting down four more foreign terrorists and the local groups protecting them.
Army Captain Joa-ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the 6th Division, told the Inquirer by phone on Friday that soldiers in Maguindanao were now running after Singaporean terror suspect Muhamda Ali alias Muawiyah and his coddlers, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Washington has offered $500,000 for the capture or death of Muawiyah.
“He is also a senior member in their organization and we are aiming to neutralize the foreigner,” Petinglay said.
Petinglay said Muawiyah closely worked with Usman in mounting terror attacks in various parts of Mindanao.
Moro National Liberation Front spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla told a local radio station that Usman might have died but he had accomplices, such as Muawiyah and those he had taught bomb-making techniques.
Petinglay said they have anticipated that Muawiyah or Usman’s men would stage attacks, which was why the military also adopted “proactive measures” aside from the manhunt operation.
In Basilan, three Malaysian terror suspects were also being hunted by Malaysian authorities after villagers reported they were regularly seen there.
The military said the foreigners could be teaching the Abu Sayyaf new bomb-making techniques.
Navy Capt. Roy Vincent Trinidad, chief of staff of the Naval Forces in Western Mindanao, said this analysis came to the fore following Thursday’s operation by militia-backed Army Special Forces in Muhammad Ajul town – during which, two Abu Sayyaf members were killed.
“Villagers were alarmed over the reported presence of the Malaysians and the display of black Shahada flag, so they decided to lead an operation (against the Abu Sayyaf coddlers), which we supported,” Trinidad said.
He said residents of Barangay (village) Tuburan were referring to Malaysian nationals Mohammad Najib Bin alias Anas, Mohammad Joraimi Bin Awang Raimee alias Jandal, Dr. Mahmud Bin Ahmad alias Handzalahdoc.
“They were regularly spotted by Tuburan villagers in the area,” Trinidad said.
He said during the operation, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) – which were unlike previous explosives seized from the Abu Sayyaf – had also been recovered and were safely defused.
Capt. Ben June Cerbo, acting spokesperson of Western Mindanao Command, said there were two clashes that took place in Tuburan on Thursday.
“There were two Abu Sayyaf killed, troops also recovered two IEDs that were safely disrupted. They also seized the black Shahada flags,” Cerbo said.
The Malaysians were believed to have escaped alongside the bandits.
Trinidad said the seized bombs used “solar panels” to power the detonator. The bombs, he said, were made up of paint cans where the explosive components and other materials were contained and fitted with mobile phones powered by small solar panels as detonator.
“This is the first time we discovered this type of IED,” he said.
Malaysian authorities said they have been hunting down Mahmud and the other militants, who belong to the Darul Islam Sabah, a Malaysian group closely linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The information on the other militants was scarce but Mahmud, 36, was said to be a former lecturer at the University of Malaya’s Islamic Studies. Jeoffrey Maitem and Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao